The Importance of including Ethics in Teacher Training Courses in Germany

Academic Paper 2013 7 Pages

Pedagogy - The Teacher, Educational Leadership



1. Introduction

2. Definition of ethics

3. Ethics in teaching
3.1 Reasons for including ethics in teacher training courses
3.1.1 Responsibility
3.1.2. The teacher as a role model
3.1.3. Ethical dilemmas

4. Conclusion



The profession of a teacher always has a double ethical dimension. On the one hand, as a transmitter of knowledge he is responsible for an adequate instruction of the subjects taught by himself. On the other hand, as an educator, he has to guide his students towards a life based on ethical and moral values and personal responsibility. In a few words, he has to nurture both their intellectual growth and the growth of their character. Whereas many countries have taken the importance of the educational task into consideration by including ethics in teacher training courses, the ethical dimension of a teacher’s profession is still neglected in Germany where the focus is put on the methods of subject teaching. As a result, new teachers are unprepared to handle situations which require ethical judgement and often feel helpless when they have to take ethical decisions.

So, the purpose of this report is to highlight the importance of including ethics in teacher training courses in order to show German professionals, who are responsible for teacher education, how an implementation of ethics in teacher training curricula can improve the quality of teaching and help teachers to fulfill their role as educators.

As a first step, the meaning of ethics in education derived from a general definition of ethics is explained. Then, based on the results of a survey, the needs of novice teachers for an instruction in ethics are illustrated. Finally, three of the main ethical topics which are relevant for teachers are described.

1. Introduction

While ethics has been implemented in teacher training courses in many countries over the last two decades, this subject is still neglected in Germany, where the focus is put on subject teaching and methods with less regard on educational and moral matters. However, a teacher’s task consists not only of transferring knowledge and preparing students for a professional career, but also of developing the students’ characters and personalities. Many teachers in Germany - new as well as experienced - are not aware of the responsibility they have towards their students and they often face ethical issues in their professional practice without being prepared to handle them properly. As a result they take wrong and sometimes woeful decisions or behave unethically in teaching situations.

Ethical issues occur in many different forms in teaching situations. Although it is not practicable to give a key solution to each situation or to foresee all possible ethical problems, the development of a certain sensitivity and awareness about ethical issues is necessary and should not be missing in teachers’ education. So, the following report presents some of the most important reasons for including ethics in teachers training courses in Germany.

2. Definition of ethics

Ethics is commonly defined as moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity” (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/ethic s). From this general definition of the term several professions derive their own focus related to the special needs and requirements of their working field. Physicians, for example, swear the Hippocratic Oath which oblige them to practice their profession ethically. Even though such an oath doesn’t exist for educators yet, many educational establishments have introduced a code of conduct which is required to be followed by its members, for example the Connecticut Code of Professional Responsibility for Teachers

( http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/cert/ethics/code_teachers.pdf ).

3. Ethics in teaching

One of a teacher’s principle tasks in education is to help students to become a responsible and ethically reasonable person. To achieve this aim a teacher has to consider the double dimension that has ethics in teaching processes. On the one hand, the teacher has to act himself in accordance with ethical and moral principles. One the other hand, he has to encourage the ethical development of his students. (Dresscher 2007, p.10)

3.1 Reasons for including ethics in teacher training courses

Teachers qualify their profession as an “essentially ethical activity”( Caetano & Silva 2009, p.10) because they are responsible for the ethical development of his students and have to behave themselves according to highly ethical standards. However, the table below, which represents the results of a survey made with Australian pre-service-teachers (Boon 2011, p. 86), show that there is a high need of discussing ethical issues in teacher training courses and that a high percentage of beginning teachers feel unsure regarding ethical topics.

Furthermore, it can be supposed that similarly to other professions, the majority of teachers consider themselves as ethical because they are not conscious of the more or less subtle influences which lead them to take more or less unethical decisions (Banaji et al 2003). According to Mullamaa (2009) it is indispensable to accept and to know the influence of own values and attitudes on decision making to analyze own biases critically.

So, one of the tasks an ethic training has to fulfill consists in a critical analysis of own bias and prejudices and their influence on the professional practice.

In the following part of this report three of the main ethical issues concerning everyday teaching practice are examined in order to highlight their importance for teacher training courses.

3.1.1 Responsibility

Responsibility is a term which covers a wide field of attitudes and behaviors in teaching processes. More and more countries have established codes of responsibility, for example the Connecticut Code of Professional Responsibility for Teachers (http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/cert/ethics/code_teachers.pdf) or the Professional Responsibilities prescribed by the educational department of NSW (http://www.dec.nsw.gov.au/about-us/careers-centre/school-careers/teaching/your-teaching-career/approved-teachers/casual-teacher-induction/professional-responsibilities) in order to highlight the teachers duty towards their profession and their students. In Germany, however, a similar codification does not appear anywhere, although an adequate consideration of this topic in preparation courses could increase the sensitivity of teachers for responsible and ethical behavior.

Furthermore, as teachers are endowed with considerable power, it is indispensable that they become and stay aware of the enormous responsibility which is combined with this power and that they avoid taking advantage of their power relationship with students.

A teacher’s responsibility covers two areas. On the one hand, he is responsible for the learning process of his students. This includes content knowledge and a conscientious preparation with up-to-date information (HIll IV & Zinsmeister 2012). Furthermore, a permanent and critical evaluation of the teaching process in accordance with the goals that are to achieve is essential.

Moreover, the responsibility for guiding students towards independent and critical thinking demands that the teaching process is open and encourage a free from indoctrination.

Beside the content knowledge, the teacher is responsible for the welfare and emotional growth of his students. It is essential that a teacher respect the dignity of his students (Hill IV & ZInsmeister 2012). This essential rule includes that a teacher is conscious of how his words or comments can influence a student’s self-perception (Mullamma 2009). Ethical training is an effective method to increase a teacher’s sensitivity of the effects of his words and behavior.



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ethics teacher training



Title: The Importance of including Ethics in Teacher Training Courses in Germany